Education Secretary Defends ESSA Implementation Before Senate Committee


McClatchyDC reports on Secretary John King’s Wednesday appearance before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, at which Republicans “strongly criticized” him for having “failed to follow the intent” of ESSA. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Richard Burr (R-NC) were quoted saying that the bill was clear in its language and the department was not following it.

King replied to plans for school assessments, “The key is that parents, educators, communities have clear information about the performance of schools.” He added, “States could take a variety of approaches to a single, summative rating. They could use an A through F system if they so chose. They could use a numerical index if they so chose. Or they could use a categorical system, which actually is required in the statute.” He also said, “I agree that one of the problems with No Child Left Behind was an overly restrictive set of responses to struggles in schools,” but “At the same time, we have to make sure that states and districts pay attention when their students of color, their low-income students or their English learners or their students with disabilities are not performing.”

Education Week offered a more extensive report leading with criticisms by Republican senators of proposals for “summative ratings for schools, saying such a requirement is not found” in the act. Sen. Alexander also expressed concerns the proposals “might give the department improper oversight over states’ content standards,” while both Alexander and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) worried the proposed rules “would make states and schools shift to the new law too quickly.”

Alexander said that under ESSA responsibility for developing “teacher evaluations, school improvement strategies, and other matters” has “been restored to states and local school boards and classroom teachers.” While Alexander said that whether to have a summative rating was now up to the states, King argued that some such rating would be “necessary in order to identify schools in need of comprehensive and targeted interventions.”

EdSource (6/29, Freedberg) also focuses on the question of summative ratings.